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"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

By Spotlight Central, Photos by Love Imagery

originally published: 02/17/2024

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

World music is alive and well at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts this Thursday, February 8, 2024 evening as concertgoers settle in for a performance by the South Korean instrumental duo, CelloGayageum.

Grunin Center Executive and Artistic Director Heidi Sheridan welcomes tonight’s crowd and introduces CelloGayageum featuring Sol Daniel Kim on the cello and Dayoung Yoon on the gayageum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

The duo opens the show with “Dreamlike Fantasy,” where Yoon plucks her 12-string gayageum and Kim plucks and bows a steady beat on his cello. Once a steady 6/8 melody with accompaniment takes shape, Kim plays bluesy and rock melodies on the cello while Yoon accompanies with interspersing folk-sounding licks on the gayageum before the piece becomes more fiery.

A second movement features Kim tapping out rhythms on the cello with his hands before bowing and playing sliding long tones on its strings while Yoon improvises on her gayageum. Ultimately, the piece returns to its original 6/8 melody with accompaniment before concluding with a live fade-out on the coda.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

Yoon briefly welcomes the crowd in English before Kim takes over revealing that “Dreamlike Fantasy” was the first piece ever composed for this unusual ensemble. Kim also reveals that the pair is a married couple — explaining that he is from Austria and Yoon is from South Korea — and that the two have performed together for eight years.

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Next up is the appealing “An Unusual Cowboy,” which is an original piece based on a Clint Eastwood film. It opens with a bluesy cello flourish and continues with Yoon rhythmically plucking on the gayageum while Kim plays the blues on his cello. When Yoon plucks out a bluesy solo, Kim accompanies her with a walking bass. As the tune speeds up, it takes on the form of a jaunty rhythmic romp. Eventually, a slow Western feel takes over as Yoon slides her hands over the strings of her instrument while Kim’s cello sings a melodic tune, his notes hanging in the air eliciting warm applause from the audience.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

Following “Fishermen,” a melancholy tune on which both Kim and Yoon play their instruments with bows, Kim explains that every piece the duo performs is an original creation as there is no literature for the pair’s unique combination of cello and gayageum.

The group continues with “Fly High,” a piece which is a based on a Korean folk song that starts with a trance-inducing drone played by Kim on the cello and Yoon slowly plucking the strings of her gayageum.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

Kim adds a lovely melody complimented by the rhythmic plucking of strings before the number continues with a rubato feel which is followed by a more animated 5/4 segment and a rollicking common time conclusion.

One of the highlight performances of the evening is “Ut,” which pays tribute to the Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond classic, “Take Five.” Following an accelerating intro, Kim slaps his cello as he plays a jazzy 5/4 accompaniment. Yoon is featured as she bends and plucks the strings of her gayageum before the pair shifts into a 4/4 swing feel and back into 5/4 prior to the rubato coda of this breezy and delightful number.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

Yoon switches from playing the 12-string gayageum to a 25-string version for the pair’s fast-paced and dramatic composition, “I Saw the Wolf.” They follow up with a piece the duo composed during a storm they experienced on a cruise ship. Entitled “Sound of the Ocean,” Yoon begins with a slow and peaceful melody on the gayageum and Kim enters with mournful and slow bowing on the cello to embellish Yoon’s rhythmic playing. The music ebbs and flows through several movements before Kim recreates the sound of ocean waves by moving his hands up and down the strings of his instrument.

The couple’s musical travelog continues with “Am Canal,” an example of program music they created in a hotel room overlooking a canal in Germany. Yoon adds bell-like accents to Kim’s drawn bow sounds before the composition’s lovely haunting melody and accompaniment take over. Next, “Afterlife” — a self-described “piece about death” — has Yoon tolling a bell sound on the gayageum over long, low bowed sounds created by Kim on his cello.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

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The piece continues with the pair offering up a musical chase scene which features dark and frantic plucking and sliding on the strings of both instruments.

The crowd fervently applauds, and Yoon and Kim thank the audience prior to concluding the evening’s performance with “Hanyang,” a piece based on a scene of old Seoul, Korea. On this number, Yoon stretches her arms to handle the complete length of her 25-string gayageum’s fretboard as the duo’s music cascades into a cacophony of sound.

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

Music lovers in the audience react with hoots and hollers and the pair humbly bows to the appreciative crowd.

As concertgoers make their way out of the auditorium, several comment on tonight’s performance. Declares Jordan from Toms River, “This show was incredible! I’m so glad I decided to come tonight — to me, the music sounded like a movie score!” Breanna from Toms River discloses, “This performance was such an immersive experience, which is something I didn’t expect. It was awesome hearing a world music concert played by such an interesting combination of instruments performing music created in a variety of different countries.”

Daniela, a classical trained pianist, calls tonight’s show, “Fascinating,” explaining, “I loved how they used every aspect of their instruments to create unique sounds by tapping and sliding on them. I also loved how percussive they were,” prior to adding, “For me, the gayageum was just amazing!”

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

Jebriyah from Lakewood agrees, noting, “I loved this show! My favorite instrument is the cello, and tonight’s concert just reinforced that for me. I was also really excited, however, to be able to learn about a new instrument — the gayageum — and I really loved hearing the timbre of both instruments when they were played together.”

Lastly, Laura from Barnegat insists, “This was an absolutely wonderful concert — I was so excited to be here to experience it!” while Jo from Beachwood concludes by simply stating that, for her, “This was one special evening!”

"One Special Evening!" CelloGayageum LIVE! at the Grunin Center

To learn more about CelloGayageum, please go to For information on upcoming concerts at the Grunin Center for the Arts — including The Princeton Singers on March 1, Ella: The Early Years on March 15, and The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass on April 6 — please go to

Photos by Love Imagery

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